The idea of street preaching isn’t new, it comes from the bible. This was how the apostles gained converts and
spread Christ’s message among the gentiles. They shouted to the crowds in busy town squares, public venues, festivals, and anywhere large groups of people were sure to be. Like today’s street pastors, or DMV evangelist – they had the same message and they had the same approach, they even had the same ungodly audience (perhaps more ungodly of an audience considering they were a society of pagans). However today street pastors are faced with a very different result… That is they seldom convert anyone to anything. The people simply do not listen, and the crowds of people simply keep walking by. Out of hundreds or thousands 1 or 2 may come up to them to talk about being Christian, but only because they generally considered themselves Christian anyway. This is a pathetic definition of “success”. At the time of the apostles they were met with hatred and scorn by crowds for sure, but at least half of the time they brought people to christ. Certainly no one could say they were met with complete indifference such as we see today. So whats the difference?
In ancient Roman or Greek culture, it was normal for people to shout in the street. The word “Gospel” means “The Good News” – literally it was “News”. When people shouted in the street it was anything from political debates, to weather reports, announcements, theater advertising, little girl got stabbed then raped, etc. Literacy was very rare at the time, the only way people got their news was from a guy shouting among the crowd. Often there was a guy in the market place reading off today’s headlines to the masses as they were going about daily errands. When someone began shouting, people actually stopped and looked and listened. They actually took the guy shouting in the street seriously.
Immediately you should see the
difference in social conditioning. As modern people, we get our news on TV or online. When someone is shouting in the street the reaction is that person is insane and should be avoided. It doesn’t matter what they say- people just avoid them, or are even afraid of them. What was once normal is now considered just weird. Shouting in public squares is no longer a social norm.
So yes street preaching was a great idea, because people actually payed attention to them. When people hated and scorned the apostles it was because they disagreed with their message- but they payed attention long enough to disagree with their message. Some payed attention just as long and loved what they had to say. Which ever way the crowd turned the point is they payed attention.
It’s not that they are bad public speakers, its not even that they are Christian- street pastors simply need to learn a new rule book with evangelism. If Paul the apostle were here today I’m certain he would of found a way to get on the 6 o’clock news and preach (he really was a very tenacious person at his time, but his resourcefulness is a study for another time, though it’s incredible the things he came up with).
Now don’t get me wrong I commend street pastors I really do, i am certainly of the mind the word of god belongs everywhere. Their courage and work is commendable, just misplaced. I’ll give a couple alternatives but ultimately the possibilities are endless for evangelism.
Online is an easy place to preach to the lost. I’ve heard so many converts from so many (even Islamic) countries who say they converted because of something they read or watched online. You want a broad audience well here it is, you have the entire worlds attention here, you’ve made it to my blog why not set up your own? There’s of course YouTube for the more vocal…. Well its there why the heck not use it?
There is a recent movement for Church Pubs. Holding a church service at a pub is an excellent way to get people’s attention. Nothing gets people’s attention like beer! These churches usually make a deal with a small pub or bar to open early on Sunday. The Pubs are usually happy to considering its business they normally wouldn’t get. As a pastor your generating a large enough audience to make it worth the Pubs while. Generally these churches gear service more to an informal house church style.. Beer today doesnt have is the same image it once did. Your not going to get sloppy drunk, your going to relax and enjoy yourself with a microbrew and make friends and talk about JESUS. To see a sample in how this works click here for a video. (Some knowledge of beer may be required as your not going to the drunken low life types- more the beer snot connoisseur types. Though I’m sure this would work as well in a dive bar just the same as a nice pub or beer garden. Rich or poor wicked or saved people like beer, I should think everyone would be doing this). If beer isn’t your thing and if your American coffee shops is your thing. The point is host a meeting in a social infrastructure.
So I’ve thrown out a couple alternatives to street preaching. Literally there’s thousands of ways to preach to the lost world. Yes street preaching is dated, it simply doesn’t work because in modern times people are not conditioned for it. It’s not just the message its the method. However don’t let this stifle your creativity in getting people’s attention. Truely, the person who came up with preaching at the DMV or New York City Subway Train had a very innovative thought- if street pastors can come up with that what else can they come up with I wonder?
Yes I understand no matter where you go with the word of God people are going to be divided on it. Jesus actually promised us we would be hated and scorned for preaching. But the word choice is “Divided” meaning some people are not going to go for it and others will. Today its obvious street preaching isn’t yielding results at least in western society. In order for there to be division among people on gods word they must at least pay attention. The guy screaming on the streets is seen as nothing more but a ranting lunatic. The body of Christ is fully flexible enough to change with the times, though the message is the same as it was in the first 4 centuries.
Whatever you do Be creative, don’t hold back, calculate your risks, and more importantly dont be afraid to stand out!